. . . if ever there was a film to accomplish its goals on visuals alone, Ultraviolet does it with flying colors.

TimRaynor's picture

After watching "Ultraviolet" for the first time, I found myself somewhat distraught because I actually enjoyed it. For all the rules of moviemaking ethics, I should have hated this film, but as it turns out, I found it a film that's so bad it's good. Maybe that makes no sense, but I'm sure everyone is familiar with the term "guilty pleasure." "Ultraviolet," in my opinion, is one of the best guilty pleasures to come around in a long time. I have to admit I was more entertained with this film than with the new "Star Wars" trilogy, and I found the corniness a little easier to swallow than "Starship Troopers." In fact, after my first viewing, I leaped out of my chair, did an impression of Donkey from "Shrek," and said, "Let's do that again!"

"Ultraviolet" is based on a character, Violet Song jat Shariff (Milla Jovovich), from a make-believe comic book. Now I'm sure that makes little sense, but the director, Kurt Wimmer, wants you to believe there is a comic book called "Ultraviolet." Rightfully so, this is because the entire movie shoots from the hip like a comic-book story. Even the opening credits are the covers of what would be the "Ultraviolet" comic book. The camera angles, brilliant colors, over-the-top effects, and even the cheap dialogue come at you like everything you would expect in a graphic novel. Nevertheless, the movie works at capturing a comic-book look and feel more than any film I've seen in its genre. If you can manage to get past the campy delivery, you will find an astonishingly entertaining film in there, and if ever there was a film to accomplish its goals on visuals alone, "Ultraviolet" does it with flying colors.

In the movie, we are a long way into the future and a super virus has infected many humans, giving them the appearance of vampires. Let me make one thing clear right now: this is not a vampire movie. The disease only makes the infected, known as hemophages, have certain traits that can be attributed to vampires. They have enlarged fangs, great strength, super speed, sensitivity to bright light, and quick healing powers, but they do not go around sucking people's blood or sleeping in coffins. The disease is merely a part of the plot that shows us there is a distinct separation of humans and the infected. Hemophages are rounded up and taken to camps where they are separated from society. Of course, we are thrown into the film at the time when the infected have waged an underground war against the humans and those in control of the chaotic culture.

From the start, Violet is sent on a mission from her fellow hemophages to retrieve a weapon that could destroy all of their kind. This is a dangerous task, as she must impersonate a member of a biochemical plant, run by her nemesis, Daxus (Nick Chinlund), from whom she steals the weapon. She soon discovers that the weapon is no weapon at all and is nothing more than a little boy named Six (Cameron Bright), as in the number six in a series of clones. Instead of bringing the prize weapon to her leader, Nerva (Sebastien Andrieu, who's acting has the personality of a roof shingle), Violet decides to take Six to an underground, scientist friend of hers named Garth (William Fichtner). It is up to Garth, hopefully, to find a cure for the hemophages by studying any antibodies that Six may possess. Garth soon finds out something more odd and perilous about Six, and it leaves Violet into one action sequence after another while protecting Six from the clutches of Daxus.

First, let me point out the imperfections. The movie really has some pathetic dialogue that comes across cheap, and, at times, laughable. It's as if the dialogue were stolen straight out of a graphic novel and given little thought for how it might be delivered on the big screen. Granted, the film comes across like a comic book, and the art of the film was meant to look that way; it's just that cheesy dialogue is a pet peeve of mine. More so, there were a couple of places where the editing had me lost, but I was having so much fun with all the visuals that I really didn't care. There were also times that the effects seemed a bit too over-the-top, and what I mean by this is you could see that it was all CGI and not so much trying to make things look as real as possible. Nevertheless, this again can be attributed to the art of the film and the way it delivers the feel of a graphic novel. So, with that in mind, perhaps too much CGI is not an imperfection for this movie, but there are those who may think otherwise.

"Ultraviolet" does have some outstanding qualities that I found outweighed its imperfections. It is undoubtedly a visually stunning movie, and as any science fiction film should, it isn't afraid to introduce new ideas. Among the new and more-entertaining technologies you will find are flat-space technology, which is a great way to compress and hide anything from weapons to other valuables. Then we have antigravity technology, which allows you to walk on the ceiling or ride a motorcycle perpendicular along a building as Violet does in a rather exciting action sequence. There is also the disposable cell phone that can project a three-dimensional, holographic image; I'm sure we're probably not too far from that idea. Then there is my personal favorite: the chameleon technology, which allows Violet to change the color of her hair or cloths in order to adapt to the environment around her.

Along the lines of great visuals, this is a film that screams to be seen in the HD or Blu-ray format. In fact, this is the only film I've seen so far that has tempted me to buy a set and player in HD. Unlike some sci-fi films that show the future as being dark and gloomy, "Ultraviolet" gives us a future of vivid colors and proportions. The CGI is soft yet colorfully breathtaking, to say the least. The action sequences are a ballet of choreographed moves delivered by a plethora of eye-pleasing camera angles. I especially loved the "no-touch" action sequence as the camera pans through the reflections of sun glasses during a gunfight atop a tower roof. Needless to say, I could go on all day about all the wonderful, over-the-top visuals, but I leave that up to you to see for yourself. And at a running time of ninety-four minutes, it certainly won't kill anyone to take a look.

The video is presented in a 1.85:1-ratio, anamorphic widescreen. It is a vividly clean and colorful picture to look at, and I would have to say it's one of the best pictures I've seen on a DVD in years. The facial tones may be too soft for some people's taste, but the colors and eye-popping sets make up for any small blemishes the picture might have. I was so inspired by the picture quality that I sat there with my mouth wide open in awe, and, yes, I think I actually did catch a couple of flies without knowing it.

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. It only comes in English with English subtitles, and no French or Spanish to be found on this edition. The audio is about every bit as good as the picture quality. The dynamics were perfect as the dialogue was well balanced over the sound of the action and score. At no time did I find the need to adjust my audio volume as it delivered flawless sound throughout the entire picture.

There are not too many extras to speak of on this unrated, extended edition. Besides the movie being seven-minutes longer than the theatrical version, there's not a lot to speak of. There is a commentary by Milla Jovovich that she probably should never have done. Granted, I like the woman, and she's good at the stereotyped roles she plays, but doing a commentary is not her thing. She comes across as a dim-witted Valley girl and there are plenty of "Um's" and "Like" in her vocabulary. Not to mention, she really doesn't explain things or talk as much as you would expect; but maybe that's a good thing.

Then, there is a special feature on the making of the movie that is broken up into four parts. You can watch each one separately or all of them together. Some of it is the same old stuff we've all seen more than enough times. What am I saying is that all of it is the usual same old stuff we've seen over and over. I did find it interesting that they shot the film in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, though. Most of the sets, buildings and indoor shots were all filmed in Shanghai, which was a visually interesting-looking city. I have to admit the filmmakers made a good choice when it came to where they shot the movie.

From the main menu screen, there are the usual scene selections and a couple of movie previews. Beware: the previews will pop up just before you get to the menu; however, they can be bypassed by clicking on the menu button. There is also the language selection, which makes no sense since the movie only comes in English; however, it allows you to turn subtitles on or off, which is something you can do from your remote. The DVD itself comes in a regular keep case and has no scene insert.

Parting Thoughts:
Astonished that I actually ended up loving this movie, I had to check my critic goggles for any blemishes. Fortunately, everything checked out fine as I still have a profound love and respect for the classics. But it is still hard to fathom that I could love a film that has been panned and detested by so many people. Yes, I have questioned if there is something mentally wrong with me, but then why would I have played this movie four times within three days? Maybe it's the artist in me and the fact that I'm a sucker for colorful visuals. Perhaps it's because I'm fond of Milla Jovovich and that supermodel, catwalk strut she does while loaded with attitude and weapons. I mean, after all, I am a man, and why would I not like that in a movie? Nevertheless, I think it all comes down to how you like to be entertained, and being the guilty pleasure that "Ultraviolet" is, it does exactly what a guilty pleasure should do--entertain.


Film Value